Auckland’s Richard Shores was down in the dumps two weeks ago after his 32 foot Douglas Skater catamaran, PlaceMakers collided with Wellington’s Grant Smith Superboat Lite boat Addictive Racing in Whitianga. The incident ended any chance he had of winning this season’s overall championship and also provided him and his team with a lot of hard work to have their boat rebuilt and ready for Saturdays eighth and final round of the NZ Armacup ‘Racing for Cure Kids’, Inex Metals offshore powerboat championships held on Auckland’s inner harbour.
Flat to moderate conditions greeted the field of approx 50 boats for a race start at 1 pm, but the first incident of the day held the starters gun until 1.20 pm after Superboat entrant Pro Floors Racing flipped their 34 foot, 1100 hp catamaran just prior to the start after they hit a wake from a launch at turn buoy B. Pro Floors Racing were only 75 championship points behind series leader Peter Turner and were very confident that they had serious chance of claiming their first drivers championship title. Both crew members, Wayne & Grant Valder were able to return to shore with minor injuries, although their race craft will require extensive repair during the winter months.
When racing did get under way it was the current national champions, Peter Turner and Craig Archer in Sleepyhead that lead the field down past the large spectator crowd who had lined up along Westhaven Marina and in the flotilla of boats in the centre of the course. The sound of the throaty V8 engines echoed off the under side of the harbour bridge and having these big machines only a matter of meters away was an incredible sight. Right on their transom was Warren and Scott Lewis in the 30 foot, 1100 hp Skater catamaran, Fairview Windows & Doors with PlaceMakers about 50 meters behind. The Douglas Skater challenge (Lewis & Shores) had faltered over the past couple of rounds and both teams were extremely keen to finish on the podium and in front of the Phantom catamarans.
Superboat Lite class leader, Kelly Smith and co driver Travis Thompson in Rayglass Boats had got themselves off to an absolute flier and lead this class under the bridge for the first time, with Wellingtons Grant Smith and Dave Aldridge back in second with Australian entrant Red Bellies in third and Bob Smith and Mark Taiatini in Cat Attack in fourth. Rayglass needed to finish and not finish any further back than three places behind Addictive Racing to claim the class title in their rookie year. The race was going to plan at this early stage.
With class titles up for grabs in most other classes, competition was always going to be hot and fast, although the sea conditions were very testing with so much water kicking back into the course after hitting the sea breakwalls along Westhaven and off the pylons from the bridge. The smaller sports and formula Honda boats were spending much of the race in the air as their boats left the wakes from boats ahead to add to the spectacle.
There was a change of lead on lap 4 when Sleepyhead slowed when they experienced heating problems, allowing the Lewis brothers to hit the front in Fairview Windows & Doors. They had the 30 foot Skater absolutely flying, the wide body design obviously helping in the choppy and testing conditions. Shores and Carson moved up into second place in PlaceMakers, while Sleepyhead was able to rejoin the race, although some distance down on the two leading boats.
The lead stayed this way until lap 9 when Fairview withdrew with mechanical failure allowing PlaceMakers to hit the front for the first time. It has been an extremely disappointing finish to the season for the Fairview team after actually leading the championship when they went to Napier in round 6. Mechanical problems (drives) has hindered the good progress they were making with the re powering of the boat, I am sure they will be far better prepared next season.
Back in the field Kelly Smith and Travis Thompson had moved into third position overall, although they were being chased hard by the Addictive Racing Team. Unfortunately the Cat Attack challenge had come to an abrupt end after they joined the Pro Floors team and were the second boat to flip (at least they were in the race). Owner / driver Bob Smith was taken to hospital after he had dislocated his shoulder.
Competition was close in the Sport 100 class with YMF Family Boats leading, from V-Max Yamaha with Drive Right and Team Steadcraft in third and fourth respectively. Team Steadcraft only need to keep in touch with drive Right to clinch the class title and was obviously racing to plan.
Greg Brinck and Eldon Archer in Konica Minolta were having a great race with Hamilton’s Jeff Weake and Jacqui McGowan in Team Altitude. These two boats could have had a towel thrown over them they were that close, the lead changing on numerous occasions. The formula Honda class racing in the last few rounds has been exceptionally close and obviously adds to the appeal of so many of the competitors.
The race in the classic class was once again exciting, Mike Cameron in Holsom lead for the majority of the way, although Chris Neale in The Spirit of Cheyenne was not going to give in easy and only need to finish to clinch the class title.
In the end it was the former & five times national champions Richard Shores & Wayne Carson who drove the 32 foot, twin Buick 1300 hp catamaran PlaceMakers to victory to claim their fourth victory of the season and move into second place overall in the championship standings. In doing so Shores has now registered 36 career wins and will close the chapter of running small block V8’s in NZ as class rules change from next season in the Superboat class. There was a hint at prize giving that his successful career may be drawing to a close; that would leave a giant gap in the sport as his contribution has been immense over the years.
Peter Turner & Craig Archer brought the 34 foot Phantom designed catamaran Sleepyhead home in second place to make it back to back drivers titles in what has been a very consistent year for the Sleepyhead team. They won at Taupo and Wellington, but with a series of podium finishes throughout the year have again proven that you need to regularly score championship points and place yourself in a position to challenge for the title to be successful. Turner has now become the first driver in the history of the sport to win six national titles; his first was back in 1992 in his 33-foot Linder Cat, before he won three in a row in 94, 95, and 96 in the 40-foot Class 1 Skater catamaran.
Rayglass came home in third and took class honours while Addictive finished closely behind claiming fourth spot from Red Bellies. V Max Yamaha who were running so well for much of the race joined the likes of Pro Floors and Cat Attack when they became the third boat to flip after breaking their steering and hitting some very messy water, co driver Laurence Hullena returned to shore unhurt, although driver Graham Pike was taken to hospital with damaged ribs. YMF Family Boats registered their first class win of the season, the heavier boat relishing the rough water conditions with Mark Diggleman in Drive Right second and Greg Crawford in Team Steadcraft finishing in third to claim the Sport 100 class title.
Mike Cameron in Holsom won the classis class with Spirit of Cheyenne in second, while in the formula Honda class it was Greg Brinck in Konica Minolta who eventually finished in first place from Team Altitude. Brinck has finished the season off successfully, one wonders if he had a better result at Wellington if the season would have been different. Mark Helmes brought Miss Electropar home in third while fourth place was enough to give Chris and Debbie Bartlett the championship title.
In the Sports 60 class Brett & Serena Flexman took the honours in Toll Translink from John Hercock & Warren Backhouse in Sassy Red. John Purchase and Lee Mason won the Sport 60 restricted class from Jo Lomax & Craig Stewart in Chindit with Rick and Paul Grover in Mirage finishing third.